Is There REALLY Lead In Fidget Spinners?

Have you seen the headlines floating around that there is lead in fidget spinners and that they could kill your child and that you should throw them away now!!!! (so much drama!) If you are wondering if that's true, you have come to the right place! As of this date, the Lead Safe Mama, Tamara Rubin and I have done the most comprehensive testing of fidget spinners that we are aware of and have an updated set of data to share!


In May, 2017, Tamara and I performed a series of tests on three different fidget spinners that were sent to her by a friend. Two of the spinners tested negative for lead and other heavy metals but one tested very high for LEAD as well as MERCURY! The limit for lead in items intended for children is only 90 PPM and this fidget spinner tested positive at 19,500 PPM lead! 

That is a whole lot more than 90!

Not only was there a super concerning (and illegal!) amount of lead in this spinner, it also tested positive for mercury - which should not be present in children's toys at all. It ALSO contained button batteries that easily broke out of the spinner. Why does that matter? Because button batteries can kill or maim your child if swallowed. (For more information on the danger of button batteries, see this article from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

Read more about our initial fidget spinner study: Fidget Spinners: Are They Safe? on Creative Green Living

But We Needed More Data!

While one of those spinners we tested in May was SUPER alarming, one spinner does not a pattern make. We needed more data! And you came through! Fans of Tamara's documentary film, MisLEAD: America's Secret Epidemic and Creative Green Living readers sent in fidget spinners from all over the country.

Together we tested more than 70 spinners! 
(The results above represent the first 67 spinners tested - additional spinners have been tested since this photo was taken)

All accessible parts of each spinner were tested with a non-radioactive source X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer from Thermo-Fischer Scientific (XRF for short). Tests were conducted by a trained and certified XRF operator (Tamara Rubin). Testing sessions were performed in a workshop turned "secret laboratory" in June 2017. Most spinners were new in the package, although, some came to us already used. 

In Plain English:
We used a precision scientific instrument that can test for the presence of lead and other heavy metals in Parts-Per-Million. This is the same instrument used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to test for compliance to the CPSC laws regarding lead in toys. 

You Should Also Know:
In the United States, the law says that toys and items intended for children can have no more than 90 PPM lead. Any of these spinners testing positive for more than 90 PPM is problematic.

You can see videos of all tests performed on the Creative Green Living You Tube channel. You can watch all the videos in this convenient play list here: 

What We Found

If you don't have time to watch three hours of testing videos (I don't blame you!) here is a snapshot of what we found:

Roughly 1 in 3 fidget spinners contained lead

The spinners that were the MOST LIKELY to contain lead:
  • Light up LED fidget spinners
  • Spinners made with yellow colored metal (likely leaded brass)
While plastic fidget spinners were the least likely to contain lead, we still found several plastic fidget spinners being sold at American retailers that tested positive for lead above the 90 PPM level of concern.

None of the plastic fidget cubes tested, tested positive for lead.

Questions Parents are Asking Us:

Does my light up fidget spinner have lead? Is my light up fidget spinner safe?
It is very likely that your light up fidget spinner has lead unless it is specifically labeled as "lead free". Aside from the issue of lead, I personally think that these are the most dangerous type of fidget spinner because of the danger posed by the button batteries. If you swallow a button battery (or put it anywhere inside your body - like in your nose or ear) you run the real threat of death or permanent disfigurement. If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery or the circular light up unit from their fidget spinner, take them to the emergency room IMMEDIATELY and tell them that you think your child swallowed a button battery.

Do metal fidget spinners contain lead?
It is impossible to say without testing your specific spinner. If any of the metal components on your spinner are made with a yellow-colored metal, it is more likely to contain lead than a grey colored or rainbow colored metal - but again, we can't say for sure. If you are interested in having your fidget spinner tested for lead, get more information about fidget spinner testing on Tamara's website.

Do plastic fidget spinners contain lead? Are plastic fidget spinners safe?
Most of the plastic fidget spinners we tested did not contain any lead. HOWEVER, some did. We tested two nearly identical plastic spinners - one had no detectable lead and one had more than twice the legal limit for lead in toys. There is no way to tell just by looking at a spinner if it has lead or not.

How can I test my kids' fidget spinners for lead?
The best way to have fidget spinners tested for lead is with an XRF that has consumer goods software installed. These machines cost $20K - $50K - and most people don't have easy access to one! Tamara is currently offering very affordable fidget spinner testing for $10 plus shipping (which is much less than you would pay to a lab). Get more information on having your fidget spinner tested for lead here. I do not recommend using a LeadCheck swab to test your fidget spinner for lead.

Can I use a 3M LeadCheck Swab to test my fidget spinner for lead?
The thing you have to understand about LeadCheck Swabs is that they are really designed to test for lead in house paint. When you rub an activated swab on something, it will turn red if the swab picks up more than 600 PPM lead (the highest concentration of lead allowed in house paint before remediation is needed). The problem is that the legal limit for lead in kids' toys is only 90 PPM. If your spinner has 500 PPM lead - FIVE TIMES the legal limit for lead in kids toys - and you check it with a LeadCheck Swab, you will still get a "negative" result even though lead is present in concerning amounts.

Now, if you check your fidget spinner with a LeadCheck Swab and it turns red (indicating that more than 600 PPM lead was picked up by the swab), then you should should definitely get rid of it - it absolutely has an unsafe level of lead. Just don't get lulled into a false sense of security thinking that your spinner is lead-free because your swab test came back negative.

Can you recommend a safe fidget spinner?
Because most fidget spinners are not brand name toys (and many of the ones that ARE brand name toys came up positive for lead!) it's hard to point you to a safe spinner that I can be confident will not have in it. Even if it came back negative for lead when we tested it, if they change materials between batches or change manufacturing facilities there is no way to know if their new batches of spinners will still be safe.

I think your SAFEST Option for a lead free fidget spinner is to make your own with Legos or another lead free material like cardboard. (see links to tutorials below).

I think your next safest option are Fidget Cubes (stick with the original from Antsy Labs) as none of the fidget cubes we have tested so far came back positive for lead. I can't promise that at some point in the future they won't introduce lead into their manufacturing process but to-date they have done well.

How do you make your own fidget spinner?
Here are some of my favorite tutorials for DIY spinners made with lead safe materials!
How to Make a DIY Lego Fidget Spinner on Creative Green Living

Lego Fidget Spinners on DoodleCraft

Lego Fidget Spinner on Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls

If you found information in this post, helpful please share it on your favorite social media channels!

For further reading on lead in fidget spinners, please see the Fidget Spinners category on Tamara Rubin's website.

About the Author:

Carissa is a green lifestyle advocate and mom of two active boys. The owner and lead writer for Creative Green Living, she is also the author of the new hardcover cookbook, Beautiful Smoothie Bowls. Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects, tasty recipes, and healthier choices that are still beautiful and delicious! Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter or join the Creative Green Living community group.
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